Beatles PR man Tony Barrow, originator of the term ‘The Fab Four, dead at 80

Tony Barrow, who wrote early stories on the Beatles for the Liverpool Echo, later became their PR man and was credited for coining the term “The Fab Four” that became the preferred label for the group, has died…

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Posted by Steve Marinucci

Tony Barrow, who wrote early stories on the Beatles for the Liverpool Echo, later became their PR man and was credited for coining the term “The Fab Four” that became the preferred label for the group, has died at age 80 three days after his birthday, Beatles authors Mark Lewisohn, Tony Bramwell and Spencer Leigh announced Sunday morning on social media.

“Sad to report the death of Tony Barrow, three days after turning 80; PR man to the Beatles (1962–68) and others in an illustrious career,” Lewisohn, author of “All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In,” announced on Twitter. “Just heard that Tony Barrow the Beatles press officer, the man who named them the Fab Four died last night. He was 80 last Wednesday,” wrote Spencer Leigh. “Sorry to report the death of Tony Barrow long time Beatles press officer!,” former Beatles associate Tony Bramwell announced on Facebook.

Barrow joined the staff of the Echo at age 17 reviewing records under the moniker “Disker.” Beginning in 1954, he took on a job at Decca Records to write album cover sleeve notes while also continuing to work for the Echo. According to Bill Harry’s “The Beatles Encyclopedia,” when Brian Epstein was trying to get early publicity for the Beatles, he wrote to the Echo and the request was passed to Barrow, who suggested a fellow writer named George Harrison (not to be mistaken for the Beatle). But Epstein, who was trying to get the Beatles signed by Decca, asked Barrow again to help get the group an audition. The Beatles did do a tryout for the label, but it was rejected, although Barrow had told Epstein after the audition that producer Mike Smith was very pleased with their tape and thought the label “will be able to put the Beatles to good use.”

After the Decca rejection, Barrow helped Epstein get in contact with Andrew Loog Oldham, later the manager of the Rolling Stones, to help publicize the Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do,” which Barrow, in the Echo, called “an infectious medium-paced ballad with an exceptionally haunting harmonica accompaniment.” When Oldham didn’t take the job, Epstein offered it to Barrow, who didn’t accept right away because it would have meant leaving the security of his Decca job, but when Epstein offered him twice the money he was making at Decca, he accepted.

Among his tasks, he wrote special magazines about them and features for the Beatles Monthly, often using a pseudonym. He wrote the liner notes for the first three Beatles albums, and also the cartoon used in the booklet for “Magical Mystery Tour.” It was Barrow who recorded the Beatles’ final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on a tape recorder in 1966. The tape later circulated widely on bootlegs.

Barrow was the author of “John, Paul, George, Ringo and Me: The Real Beatles Story” and “Meet the Beatles: An Informal Date in Words & Personal Album Pictures.” He later set up his own PR firm. “I am so sad to learn of dear Tony’s passing,” Angie McCartney, former stepmother of Paul McCartney, said on Facebook.

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